R' Avi Shafran's Offensive Article Regarding Child Abuse

By Rabbi Daniel Eidensohn (Daas Torah blog)
November 17, 2012

Rabbi Shafran's recent article - The Evil Eleventh - is a highly offensive and insensitive (or perhaps mean spirited) attempt at defending the Orthodox Jewish community against charges of child abuse. Rabbi Shafran is a highly intelligent and dedicated polemicist who on occasion misspeaks. An example of this is his infamous article in which he said that the loathsome Madoff who ruined many people in a $50 billion swindle was superior to the hero of the Hudson who saved many lives with his skillful landing of an airplane on the Hudson river. Why is Madoff better according to Rabbi Shafran? Because he mentioned G-d. He retracted the article, but didn't acknowledge that he had made a serious mistake, when he discovered no one could fathom his "brilliant" insight.

In his article, Rabbi Shafran seems to feel that there is a conspiracy to assert that child abuse is a more serious problem in the Orthodox community than in the rest of the world. In particular he focuses on two writers who have dealt with the topic of abuse in the Orthodox community - Robert Kolker of NY Magazine and Hella Winston of the Jewish Week. While he can claim that these two are outsiders - he conveniently ignores others within the community who have been saying the same thing. One of them is Rabbi Yakov Horowitz - who runs the Aguda approved Project Y.E.S. - and is a highly respected defender of abuse victims. He addresses Rabbi Shafran's points and rejects them at http://haemtza.blogspot.co.il/2012/06/rabbi-yakov-horowitz-responds.html. Click here for Robert Kolker's response to R Shafran

Furthermore he claims that it can't be because of the positive Torah values and fear of G-d. That is a defense which can be rejected by anyone who has followed cases such as Mondrowitz or Weingarten. These cases weren't exceptions but unfortunately follow a fairly common patter of denial and cover ups. Rabbi Shafran wrote:

That is, put bluntly, an unmitigated insult to Judaism. Jewish life holds high the ideals of family, community, compassion for others, control of anger and passions, and ethical behavior. There will always be seemingly observant individuals who are hypocritical, or who may sadly fail the test of self-control, even with horrendous impacts on the lives of others.

It is clear to all those who have dealt with this topic within the Orthodox community - that the above values have been and are displaced when it comes to concerns for mesira, lashon harah, chillul haShem, financial loss, shidduchim etc etc etc. These are things which are obvious and well documented for years. I myself spoke with Doron Aggassi the director of Rav Yehuda Silman's abuse program in Bnei Brak. Rav Silman is a highly respect posek and member of Rav Nissan Karelitz's beis din. Mr. Aggassi noted that the Orthodox community is paradise for abusers. 1) chareidi children don't know anything about sex and don't understand what is being done to them and don't know how to report it 2) there is a code of silence not to report abuse 3) victim's and their families are especially unlikely to report abuse.

As I have noted in my books on abuse - Rav Sternbuch told me he is upset about the refusal within our community of rabbis and school officials not even wanting to listen to allegations of abuse. In fact he published a teshuva on the subject. He is upset by the lack of concern for the victims - even telling me that those there is no justification in halacha for not protecting kids by calling the police - because of fear of financial harm to the yeshivos! He told me such an attitude is an American rationale.

In fact at a time when significant progress is being made in the Orthodox community regarding abuse - it bizarre (or perhaps sinister) that Rabbi Shafran should spout this nonsense which has been rejected by the leaders of our community for at least 5 years. The best justification I could come up for this rubbish is that Rabbi Shafran simply wanted to use the BBC scandal to make Orthodox Jews look better than the goyim. Unfortunately he didn't succeed because he didn't bother getting acquainted with the reality of abuse in our community.